Interviewing from “Top to Bottom”

Me in 2012

This photo is when I would interview potential employees “from the top”.

As Founder and CEO, I thought I had it all down. We’d put the candidates through intense screening, and I would join only after my managers had weeded out all but the best. My focus was more on how lucky they were to work for such a great company and great CEO. I paid little attention to their personal story, affective gifts, family life and lacked humane awareness of their nerves in the ultra-competitive tech employment world.

Ironically, now I interview “from the bottom”. Not only am I the one sitting nervously in front of the hiring manager answering extensive questions, but I do so as a convicted felon.

Although the events that led to that conviction are six to eight years ago, the label still stands. Which injects the most difficult decision into every interview, “when do I tell the hiring manager about my conviction”?

There are all kinds of advice out there on the topic…

Tell them right away. Tell them in second interview. Tell them like Fair Chance law states, after a conditional offer of employment. None of these are easy and there is no right or wrong way to do it.

There is only a small keyhole through which to gain the position no matter which strategy I attempt.

All I can do is bleed honesty in emotion. Focusing on the situational acts, the length of time since, the amount of rehabilitation, the foundational change in personality, and the desire to rejoin the workforce and put my skills and experience to work in a way that changes the lives of others.

Moving from top to bottom has taught me a lot of things, but the most important is that each applicant is a person with a story. It may not be the perfect story or the one most accepted by company leadership, but it is one that deserves personalized attention and understanding regardless of an offer of employment.

To all CEO’s, founders, HR managers, and leaders, please interview every candidate like you are at the bottom, right along with them. You will change your employment strategies in a way that recognizes the depth of individuals personalities and story. You will hire those “chiseled” by life’s experiences and their grit will create a better customer experience and working environment for everyone.

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